Anthony Browne: Labour policies do little to help tackle unfairness, but a lot to exacerbate it
It is easy politics for Ed (or as the Independent calls him, David) Miliband to launch a new front in the class war against David Cameron, who he said is only interested in looking after the top 1%, and didn’t have “fairness” in his DNA. As Tim Montgomerie pointed out, that is in itself unfair – the government has launched a whole range of measures such as lifting the income tax threshold and linking the state pension to earnings that is specifically targeted at helping those on low incomes.
But there are two broader points here, which few Labour politicians seem able to get, but the British public and Conservative politicians do. The first is that for most people fairness isn’t just about tackling inequality, it is about being treated fairly. People on low incomes who have been waiting on the housing list a long time tend not to see anything fair about people who have just arrived in the country jumping to the top of the waiting list, because their need is greater. My guess that this sense of fairness is actually far more deeply held by the British than the dislike of inequality – they don’t mind someone being rich, so long as they deserve it.
Like many Conservative supporters, I believe fairness is very important, but it is the sort of fairness the British people believe in, and what matters to me (and indeed to those affected) is not rhetoric about fairness but policies that actually in the real world help people who are not able to help themselves. As Iain Duncan Smith's work on social justice has highlighted, the evidence of the past decades is that Labour policies do little to help tackle unfairness, but a lot to exacerbate it. Tony Blair and his new Labour followers understood much of this, but it is clearly lost on Ed Miliband.